AT&T Takes Banking Mobile

AT&T brought its customers one step closer to the promise of mobile banking Tuesday when it announced partnerships with BancorpSouth and a number of other banks to offer banking capabilities to wireless users.

Customers of the participating banks who subscribe to AT&T’s wireless service can download a mobile banking application directly to their cell phone. From there, they can view their account balances, transfer funds between accounts, and receive and pay bills, much the way they have long been able to using a home PC.

All information on the application is password-protected and encrypted for security assurance, AT&T officials said.

In addition to BancorpSouth, other participating banks include Wachovia, Regions and Suntrust Bank. The banking application is from Firethorn Holdings, which also acts as an intermediary between AT&T and the banks.

“At BancorpSouth, a key emphasis is on offering our customers convenient, time-saving new ways of managing their money,” said Aubrey Patterson, BancorpSouth’s chairman and chief executive officer. “That is why we were the first financial institution to participate in a trial of mobile banking with AT&T and Firethorn, and that is why we are now making this application available to all of our customers.”

A Step in the Right Direction

“Big developments in wireless often start with a seed,” said Jim Ryan, vice president of data services at AT&T’s wireless unit. “For example, until just a few years ago, text messaging was a novelty, and now it is pervasive and hard-wired into our behavior. We believe that mobile banking will rapidly move up a similar curve of mass adoption with AT&T’s 61 million wireless customers.”

The new application certainly gives new capabilities to wireless customers and brings the U.S. market closer to capabilities already offered in many parts of Asia and Europe, where cell phones are commonly used instead of credit cards or cash. However, the move may be only an incremental step in the right direction.

“What’s really exciting is using cell phones as credit cards to pay for gas, groceries and other purchases,” Allyn Hall, director of wireless for In-Stat, told the E-Commerce Times. “This is only a small step in the right direction. In truth, there’s nothing you can do here that you couldn’t do before, if you had Internet access from your cell phone.”

‘Not Exactly Revolutionary’

The Firethorn software will undoubtedly make mobile banking easier than it was before, but overall Hall said the announcement is “not exactly revolutionary.”

“This is only part of the conversion of the cell phone into a full-fledged financial device — the other part will be using it for actual transactions,” agreed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Part of the reason other countries are so far ahead of the United States in this respect is because of a “classic American problem,” Hall pointed out. “Unlike countries like Japan, in which companies cooperate on standards and then compete afterwards, here in the U.S. we compete on standards,” he said.

The result is that “in the U.S. we’re paralyzed — we can’t agree on how to share the wealth or even on standards,” Hall continued. “Five years from now we could easily still be stuck in this same place.”

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Digital Clienteling Platform Breathes Life Into Live Commerce

The marketing technique called clienteling is used by retail workers to establish long-term relationships with key customers. When applied to e-commerce, the practice is based on having access to data about their preferences, behaviors, and purchases.

A relatively new variation of this concept is digital clienteling. It follows many of the established marketing strategies but uses digital channels to engage customers outside the physical store.

In any form, clienteling is not a replacement term for customer service. The latter is a generalized term for all customer-associated experiences. Clienteling, on the other hand, is a smaller subsection of customer service that is entirely about building customer relationships.

Live commerce platform Immerss brings new digital foot traffic as an add-on website sales channel.

Immerss smartphone integration

Personal Touch Tool

Clienteling adds a layer of personal touch to the shopping experience that is missing on traditional CRM systems. The Immerss platform allows businesses to keep track of client purchases. This, in turn, gives in-store associates — who might be working from remote locations — the ability to identify the most loyal customers as well as their preferences to provide a more targeted service.

Immerss changed its marketing services offerings to develop a unique platform that connects its clienteling capabilities to retail clients’ CRM software.

Two years ago, Arthur Veytsman, CEO of Immerss, decided to pivot toward “productization” of his video commerce services, as he calls it. He developed a live commerce platform that changed how e-commerce sites serve their customers. It enables online merchants to sell online in real-time, dramatically speeding up a process that until now has mostly been done in person or offline.

“Tools like FaceTime, Zoom, and SMS messaging are all connection tools. They create collaboration. They create a connection between the two people. Facilitation of that is not easy. Our software is completely embedded with the client’s back end and platform, which allows us to be there when the conversation starts,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Aha Moment

Early in the start of his quest for a new approach, Veytsman had a luncheon meeting with the president of Lucchese, a 138-year-old custom bootmaker based in Texas. The retailer was looking into potentially using live commerce as an option to work with online influencers.

In the course of their conversation, the president of the company bemoaned his dissatisfaction with the results of traditional CRM chat features. He saw a gap in how his salespeople performed in the direct-to-consumer store. On the sales floor, he explained, they do well when talking to clients and know how to meet their needs.

The Lucchese website never gave his sales staff the ability to speak to clients in the same manner. The chat channel was just meant to be a customer service arm. What the company needed was a way to connect clients with trained salespeople.

That scenario, noted Veytsman, described the typical journey of manufacturers or wholesalers forced to go online but were not naturally fit to be online. Lucchese’s predicament became Veytsman’s defining moment.

“That was really the aha moment for me to see a missing component in the whole retail e-commerce industry. And that is where we kind of went to the whiteboard to solve this problem,” he said.

Lucchese’s president signed up with Immerss in July 2019. The new software went live in 2020.

“Now the Lucchese website has a live sales arm. It entirely changed the way they do business,” said the Immerss CEO.

Impressive CX Results

The integrated platform took Lucchese through the pandemic. It enabled the company’s sales staff to work from home, so no one had to be laid off, according to Veytsman.

Post-pandemic retail at the custom-made boot store picked up even further. The company created a digital showroom because the number of inquiries coming through the sales portal was so high.

“Lucchese allocated five salespeople that do nothing but service sales calls. It’s been an amazing case study for us and for them an amazing story. We’ve kind of proven that this concept works. If you enable customers to connect with live trained sales associates, the magic happens,” said Veytsman.

Under the Proprietary Platform’s Hood

A panel of products enables the sales associate to see what the customer recently viewed. The salesperson can suggest an item directly in that window back to the client.

Together they can walk it all the way to checkout. It is a very embedded experience during the call. The rep can pause the call, add that person to the contact list, and then start sending messages with product lists and the links to reconnect whenever the client is ready.

“So, it is a full clienteling app versus discombobulated ways of connecting to people together. It is all under one platform. That is the beauty of it.,” Veytsman offered.

The Immerss platform brings a fully integrated solution connected with the retailer’s back-end software and CRM. The platform works via desktop, mobile devices (both iOS and Android apps), and web browsers.

Immerss is also integrated into the Shopify app. Veytsman’s roadmap is to do similar integrations with other SaaS platforms, e-commerce platforms like Salesforce commerce, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, and more.

How It Works

Immerss is completely hands-off in terms of consumer visibility. The retailer gets a website or app presence that is uniquely branded and fully automated. The Immerss platform’s integration remains hidden to shoppers.

“We connect their back end with our back end automatically. We enable them to customize their visual experiences so it feels and looks like their own software. So are the colors, the fonts, and everything else. When a client comes to their website, they see is a sharp live widget,” noted Veytsman.” It looks and feels like it is a part of that website.”

On the retailer and manufacturer’s end, they get a back-office management panel. That is where they can define sales associates. There also they can see dashboard analytics on sales and performance ROI.

Immerss tracks sales activity and then reports that back to the brands so they can enable their sales force to embrace this tool. It gives them the ability to sell outside of the physical box.

Sales staff highly depend on that traffic coming into their store. That is the only way for them to make commissions, explained Veytsman.

In addition, Immerss is a tool for sales staff to sell worldwide with no limitation. It brings in traffic from the website as an add-on sales channel.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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Practical Ideas To Make Money With Software

software engineer

Not everyone who knows how to code software gets rich quick, if at all. But extra money can be generated from software coding as passive income from side projects or independent distribution of mobile apps and more.

Software coders typically work for commercial entities developing internal applications. Some coders contract software creation projects as independent software developers. Much like freelance writers, however, software coders all do not work for large software development operations. Many coders, especially those writing open-source software, are not in a position to demand top-notch payment for their coding skills.

Of course, talented independent coders can focus on writing the next great killer application. In such cases, the software creator can sell the product directly. But just like freelancers in any industry or trade, selling your product with enough volume to get rich quick is a dream that often falls flat.

Instead of rolling out commercially marketed and paid-for product and hoping for big profits, software coders can produce projects as freeware or open source and still make money. Even if they have another job, coders can develop and earn from their own projects without going commercial. The monetary rewards may trickle rather than flood into their bank accounts. But earning additional income as a software code writer sure is a better result than doing it as a hobby.

Coders are in high demand right now. The key is knowing how to monetize your software creations. You can do this even if you distribute your code for free.

You can offer your services to create a steady cash flow, regardless of what your full-time job may pay. Branching out as an independent coder can also provide the freedom of opportunity to shape your own career path.

Software Monetization Strategies

An effective way to get started making money on software is to launch a micro-SaaS offering by creating a software-as-a-service business, either on your own or with a small team of fellow coders. Tyler Tringas lays out all you need to know about this specialized slice of entrepreneurship in his e-book “Bootstrapping a profitable SaaS Business.”

For example, you could build an iOS or Android app. With a product in hand that you built yourself, you can tap into Google Play and Apple’s App Store. These are two of the biggest app marketplaces with 2.7 million and 1.8 million available apps respectively.

According to Sensor Tower, global app revenue grew 32 percent year-over-year in Q3 2020 to more than $29 billion. Global app spending approached $65 billion in the first half of 2021. That was up more than 24 percent YoY.

A second approach is to monetize one or more open-source projects you create. Developers earn money from successful open-source projects. Of course, you may have to double down on marketing to spread the word about the software’s existence.

Monetizing your software does not have to be overly complicated. Use similar approaches to content producers that display their videos on their own YouTube channels. YouTubers generate revenue from sponsorships and high channel views for their how-to and other topic videos they upload to the platform.

Another good method to generate income is putting donation buttons on your website. This is a strategy that an increasing number of Linux distribution developers use. Clever low-key methods like a “Buy Me a Coffee” button gives people a way to support you through donations or tips. Another option is GitHub sponsors. GitHub provides multiple sponsorship tiers that set monthly payment amounts and benefits.

Also consider what is traditionally called a freemium pricing model for your software. Offer a basic free version of your coding project. Then give satisfied users an opportunity to purchase a pro version with more and better features. This approach can span markets from personal helpful applications, that run on computers to mobile apps and productivity apps for SMB and enterprise users.

Why not adapt a monetizing tool successfully used by bloggers and newsletter writers — paid advertising? Earn money by offering ads on your project’s site. The more consistent finger traffic you have visiting your software project’s site, the more money you can charge advertisers. Do some internet searches to compile a list of advertising agencies to contact. These agencies can do all the leg work for you.

World Wide Web Wonders

Tap into the growing popularity of web browser extensions. You no doubt have some pet peeves about using web browsers that could be “fixed” with a browser extension. So write the code for this newfound convenience or productivity tool that makes the browser more efficient.

Extensions are small software programs written in HTML, CSS, or JavaScript that customize the browsing experience. They enable browser functionality and behavior tailored to individual needs or preferences.

You can monetize browser extensions using the same three options applied to SaaS monetization. Asses a one-time charge for users to gain access to your app. Or charge a subscription that collects a recurring fee from users, either monthly or yearly. Perhaps the most fluid approach is to rely on in-app payments from users after they install your extension for free and then pay for extra features during use.

A related strategy is to think beyond the web app. Computer users jump on the web to reach favorite services or digital stores. Instead of making browser extensions, shift your focus to developing shopping or e-commerce related apps for digital marketplaces such as Shopify.

Yes, build a Shopify app, a standalone web application that adds more functionality to an online store using the Shopify APIs. To find out what problems Shopify merchants need solved, check out Facebook groups and forums where merchants hang out.

When your app is ready, sell it via the Shopify App Store. It is set up with an integrated billing API. This makes your monetization convenient and reliable.

Yet another way to earn cash from your coding skills is to tap into the needs of Amazon’s cloud-based Alexa smart speaker universe. Submitting Alexa skills focuses on executing voice commands. You will not need to code user interfaces and visual designs.

Instead, just focus on Amazon’s Alexa development tools and APIs. Or build SDKs for Node.js, Python, and Java. Amazon even provides tutorials as a starting point.

Amazon makes monetizing your coding skills easy. You can use in-app purchases as noted above. Only here the process is dubbed in-skill purchasing. You offer paid features to existing users that are interacting with your skill. A better bet is participating in the Alexa Developer Rewards program. See full details here.

Inline Advertising

The inline advertising method provides revenue by linking paid ads to clicks on key words in the content of your software. You highlight certain words that relate to an ad a company pays you to display. When a user rolls over the words — for instance in About page comments, app direction pages, etc. — all within the content of your software, a box pops up with advertisements related to that word.

Another approach is to place paid advertisements on your program’s main screen or display them when the application user switches from one screen to another. Or you can modify that approach in placing ads elsewhere within you application.

For instance, make the ad appear while your program loads or before it is launches. You can even place an advertising banner within the application’s interface.

Tread Gently

Be careful not to overdo the use of ads or overt pleas for donations. Ads popping up randomly on device screens can be the kiss of death. Potential users of your software may have little patience for abusive ad placement. Especially when done excessively within a game or other piece of software, users can be unforgiving.

Their surefire cure for that kind of advertising within software is uninstalling it. Still, when ads and nudges for donations are orchestrated minimally, this type of monetization is a popular approach in mobile apps and in desktop software.

Provide your users with a reliable and useful mobile app, browser extension, or website plugin. If you do not overdo the included money pitches, most users will not want to give up your software creation. As an added monetization, offer them a one-time upgrade to an ad-free version.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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